When exercise feels too hard

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When exercise feels too hard

1st May 2018

In an extract from her book “Getting Fit“, Joanne Henson tells us what to do if exercise just feels too much like hard work:

OK, it’s true that getting fit is not a piece of cake (I was going to say “walk in the park”, but it could be!) If getting and staying fit were easy, we’d be a far more active nation. In fact the act of getting fitter by its very nature involves challenging yourself and pushing boundaries. But if you’ve made the decision to read this book, I assume you’re still set on the challenge, and you now have your Benefits List as a reminder of why it will be worthwhile.

I actually believe there is more than one type of Hard.

The first is the “I didn’t realise it would be so difficult” variation of Hard. It is possible, if you’re new to exercise or starting exercise again after a long period of inactivity, that you’ve dived too deep, too quickly into a hard core programme for which your body is not ready and which it therefore really isn’t enjoying. Trying too hard too soon is the classic mistake made by a lot of January resolution-makers – diving straight in to something which is way beyond their levels of fitness, so that their workouts are a humiliating struggle. Why would anyone want to stick to something like that?

In her book “The 4-Day Win”, Martha Beck talks about “edging into exercise”. She quotes a friend of hers who told her, “Ninety percent of being in shape is getting to the gym”. He said this to her at a time when she was overweight and not exercising at all, but aware that she needed to change. So in the interests of edging herself into exercise, her first “workouts” were simply getting to the gym – yes, just getting to the gym, but not going in. She drove to the gym every day for four days, parked in the car park, then drove home again. After that, for the next four days, she drove to the gym, went in, and did three minutes of exercise, then drove home again. After that she upped it to seven minutes, and so on. Not long into this very gradual transition into exercise, she found herself wanting to do more than she was planning, and felt like her body had “decided that it actually loved the gym”.

So gradual can be good. There is absolutely no need to throw yourself into something at an advanced level on day one. Martha upped her commitment every four days – so within a month she would have been doing 20-30 minute workouts, and the advantage was that she ended up actually itching to progress faster. Easing yourself in gently will still get you there in the end, and minimises the chances of you giving up because it all feels too Hard.

The other variation on Hard? “I don’t like working so hard”. If you find yourself saying this, ask yourself exactly what it is that you find Hard. It might be a case of what I described above, or it might be that you’ve simply chosen the wrong activity for you. I personally can’t stand running – I find it boring, and pushing myself to improve at it just doesn’t inspire me, so I find any sort of running Hard. Whereas the effort and focus involved in training with heavy weights doesn’t strike me as Hard at all, because I find it really satisfying. So consider the possibility that you’re just in the wrong gym class or forcing yourself to persevere with the wrong activity. Do you prefer to exercise with friends, or in a class, or would you prefer to be going it alone? Do you like to be outdoors or indoors? Find something better suited to your preferences and even if it doesn’t feel easy, it could feel a lot less Hard.

Also, if you’re going to put in the effort, do make sure that what you’re doing best serves your goals. Seeing results tends to put even the hardest workouts into perspective, so make sure you’re not wasting your time on activities which won’t deliver what you want to achieve. For instance, running alone won’t give you more muscle definition and pilates won’t burn fat). Sounds obvious, but I personally wasted many, many hours of my life doing cardio, hoping it would give me muscle definition. I switched to weight training and – ta da! – I started seeing results and my gym visits seemed a whole lot easier. So make sure that whatever you do, it’s delivering for you.

If you liked this blog you can buy Joanne’s book for lots more tips on getting fit here.

 

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